June offers the shortest nights of the year for stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere. So count on our monthly Sky Tour podcast to help you get the most out your casual stargazing. It’s a fun and informative way to introduce yourself to the nighttime sky!

This episode is sponsored by Celestron, manufacturer of high-quality telescopes and an industry leader in developing exciting optical products with revolutionary technologies.

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Stargazers crave darkness. But for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, June offers the shortest nights of the year. This month’s solstice occurs on the 21st at 10:58 a.m. EDT. For someone at a latitude of, say, 40° north, which runs from Salt Lake City through Philadelphia and over to Madrid, that day will offer 15 hours of sunlight. So you can count on our monthly Sky Tour podcast to help you get the most out your casual stargazing on June’s short nights.

Venus-Mars-Moon in June 2023
Brilliant Venus and much-dimmer Mars await you in the western sky after sunset during June. Toward month’s end, they’ll be joined by a lovely crescent Moon.
Sky & Telescope

In early evening, you can easily track down Earth’s two closest planetary neighbors. Venus is the obvious beacon over in the west after sunset. Venus has been climbing higher up with each passing week, and on June 4th the brilliant planet is situated its farthest from the sun in the sky, what astronomers term greatest elongation. With so much separation, Venus won’t set until more than 3 hours after the Sun does.

The other planet in this general vicinity is Mars, which is to the upper left of Venus but a lot dimmer. Mars is sliding a bit lower each night, while Venus is holding its own. So as June opens, the two planets are separated by about the width of your clenched fist on an outstretched arm. By month’s end they’ll be just a few degrees apart. And is a spectacularly tight paring of these two planets coming up soon? You’ll have to listen to June’s Sky Tour to find out!

Here’s a special star to check out during June: Crane your neck and look straight up to spot Arcturus, the fourth-brightest star in the nighttime sky. It’s fairly close by as stars go, only 37 light-years away. Arcturus is a red-giant star, a swollen orb that’s more than 25 times the Sun’s diameter and 200 times its brightness.

Arcturus is highest in the evening sky not long after it gets fully dark. For most of us, it’ll be 60° to 70° above the horizon. But it passes directly overhead as seen from Honolulu. This geometric distinction made Arcturus an important navigational aid for early Polynesian sailors, who determined their latitude by noting which stars were passing directly overhead. At some point between 1000 and 1200 AD, when some of these sailors reached the Hawaiian Island chain, they noted that Arcturus was the most prominent zenith star, a realization that they used to guide them back to these islands on return visits.

Want to know about what’s up in the June evening sky? Want some easy-to-follow directions for finding the constellations that symbolize a crow, a sea snake, and a scorpion? Then why not give this month’s Sky Tour podcast a listen? It’s a fun and informative way to introduce yourself to the nighttime sky, no matter what your level of experience. So download or stream this month’s episode, then head outdoors to enjoy what the night sky has to offer.

Read the full podcast transcript.


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